A measure to take the siting of underground radioactive waste dumps out of local control came into force today after approval by only 277 of parliament’s 650 MPs. More than 300 MPs did not vote.
In one of the final decisions of the parliament, MPs agreed that geological radioactive waste disposal should be a “nationally significant infrastructure project” under planning rules. From now on decisions will be made by the Secretary of State. There was no debate before the vote.
Environmental campaigners are concerned the measure will make it easier to use abandoned deep oil and gas boreholes to store radioactive and fracking waste, without the approval or involvement of local communities.
The vote in favour was by 42% of the total MPs in the House of Commons. 33 MPs voted against and 340 did not vote.
The largest number who did not vote was among Labour MPs (246). Another 57 Conservatives and 18 Liberal Democrats also did not vote. The parliamentary record does not show whether they abstained or did not turn up.
241 Conservatives voted in favour, along with 30 Lib Dems, 1 Labour (Barry Sheerman, Huddesfield), 3 DUP and 1 UKIP.
Opponents of the measure, the Radioactive Waste Geological Disposal Facilities Order 2015, included several MPs who had voted for, or supported motions in favour of, a moratorium on fracking during the passage of the Infrastructure Bill (in bold).
5 Conservative MPs voted against: Andrew Percy (Brigg and Goole), Jason McCartney (Colne Valley), Zac Goldsmith (Richmond Park), Mark Garnier (Wyre Forest) and David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden).
11 Labour MPs voted against the measure: David Anderson (Blaydon), Russell Brown (Dumfries and Galloway), Martin Caton (Gower), Katy Clark (North Ayrshire and Arran), Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North), Paul Flynn (Newport North), Kelvin Hopkins (Luton North), John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington), Jamie Reed (Copeland) and Dennis Skinner (Bolsover). [Kelvin Hopkins was a teller for the Ayes in the vote proposing the moratorium].
8 Lib Dem MPs voted against: Alan Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed), Annette Brooke (Mid Dorset and North Poole), Andrew George (St Ives), Duncan Hames (Chippenham), David Heath (Somerton and Frome), Martin Horwood (Cheltenham), Tessa Munt (Wells), Adrian Sanders (Torbay).
Other opponents were: Caroline Lucas (Green, Brighton Pavilion); all three Plaid Cymru MPs Hywel Williams (Arfon), Elfyn Llwyd (Dwyfor Meirionnydd) and Jonathan Edwards (Carmarthen East and Dinefwr), George Galloway (Respect, Bradford West), Mike Weir (SNP, Angus) and all three SDLP MPs Margaret Ritchie (South Down), Alasdair McDonnell (Belfast South) and Mark Durkan (Foyle).
A campaigner against the measure, Dr Becky Martin, said yesterday: “The chance for intense scrutiny and public accountability has gone.”
She said: “Nowhere in this process were our elected MPs given the chance to debate this crucial issue. It’s only the safety of your drinking water being decided in small committee rooms, as under the radar as humanly possible, by committee members appointed by party whips. Democracy isn’t on its knees, its face down in the mud.”